Brian Francisco

Brian Francisco

Phone: 707-548-3531


Major — International Relations

Minor — Quantitative Methodologies

I am a seventh year Ph.D. candidate focusing on international relations and statistical methods. I am particularly interested in U.S. foreign policy decision-making, American foreign policy in Europe and the Middle East, international security, and decisions regarding the use/nonuse of force.

I worked as a writing tutor for six years as both an undergraduate and a graduate student; spent four summers teaching children, mostly with learning disabilities, reading, comprehension, and arithmetic at Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes locations from California to the District; and was a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the GW History Department for a course on U.S. diplomatic history. Prior to graduate school I studied politics and history at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where my bachelor’s thesis examined the Israeli-Iranian conflict in the context of its implications for the balance of power in the Middle East.

I am originally from Santa Rosa, in the heart of Northern California's Wine Country. Missing California, I recently relocated back to my hometown where I am working on completing my doctoral dissertation—hopefully to be finished in the next academic year or less. In my free time, I read a lot of Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance-era European history (particularly English history), watch HBO, and see movies. I have a particular love for narrative history, which is perhaps why, despite minoring in quantitative methodology, my dissertation utilizes the qualitative narrative approach more common in history, backed up by long hours in government archives.

Curriculum Vitae

Current Research

Current Research:
Dissertation — The President, his Advisors, and the Bureaucracy: Decision-Making Structures and the Question of Who “Wins” During U.S. Foreign Policy Crises

Committee: James H. Lebovic (Chair), Eric Grynaviski, Christopher J. Deering

When can the president harness the power of his office to assert his will and get his way in a foreign policy crisis? This question gets to the root of where the balance of power between the president and the top officials in the realm should lie—a question that has vexed political actors since at least the fifteenth century Wars of the Roses in England, if not even longer.

Because of the fast-moving nature of the crisis scenario, they are susceptible to being subtly hijacked by bureaucratic actors and/or top administration officials seeking to maximize their own benefit from the policy ultimately selected at the expense of the preferences of the president (sometimes without him even noticing). The president is a temporary actor (four or eight years) on the stage; the bureaucracy is eternal. Thus they have different conceptions of the “national interest” that take into account their own needs and organizational purpose. My work focuses on the type and operation of decision-making structures used during U.S. foreign policy crises as the relevant variable. I look particularly at bureaucratic and organizational power, the influence of top government officials, and why the president sometimes gets his way and why sometimes his wishes are overruled or corrupted by his subordinates.

Using two case studies that illustrate the dominance of bureaucratic organizations (U.S. policy and the 1953 Coup in Iran) and presidential dominance (the 1956 Suez Crisis) in the policy making process, I construct a theory of presidential decision-making whereby he creates his own "organization" composed of advisors whose loyalty, and thus their organizational purpose, is to the administration's ideals and sense of its place posterity. Within this group, where debate and dissension is allowed on specific policy but where everyone is clear on where the president wants the U.S. to come out of the crisis, the president may strike the balance needed between competing worst-case scenarios: that he ends up isolating himself to the detriment of the policy process on the one hand, or on the other is walked over and subverted by bureaucratic organizations in the executive branch that, because of their permanence on the scene, want to solve the crisis in a way that maximizes the benefit to themselves.


Bachelor of Arts with honors in Politics, Occidental College, 2009
Master of Arts in Political Science, The George Washington University, 2012
Master of Public Policy, The George Washington University, 2014
Master of Philosophy, The George Washington University, 2014